If you haven’t checked out NormaUSA’s website, you should. There you’ll find Norma’s Cartridge of the Month Archive. This great resource provides a detailed history of popular cartridges, along with a discussion of these cartridges’ hunting and target-shooting uses. There are currently 26 Cartridge of the Month articles, the latest featuring the mighty .500/.416 Nitro Express cartridge.
Also on Norma-USA.com you’ll find information on Norma cartridge brass, bullets, powder and factory ammo. The site also offers a video archive plus links to Norma Reloading Data.
A mild cartridge by modern standards, the 6.5×55 has impressive credentials in both the hunting field and in competition. It was developed jointly by Sweden and Norway in 1894 – one of the very first smokeless, small-bore rounds for military rifles. When Sweden boosted 6.5×55 performance in Mausers, Norway stayed with original loads in the less robust Krag. The 6.5×55 defended Scandinavia for most of a century thereafter. In 1990 the National Rifle Association of Denmark, Norway and Sweden renamed this cartridge the 6.5×55 SKAN and standardized its specifications. Still hugely popular among moose hunters there, it has also excelled in 300-meter free-rifle competition.
The long tenure of this cartridge spanned the post-war wildcatting era. Unfortunately for shooters keen to make something new of the 6.5×55 hull, its head diameter is .01 greater than that of the 7×57 (and the .270 and .30-06). The rim is thicker too. At 2.16 inches, cases mike .15 longer than the .308’s and .08 shorter than those of the 7×57 – though as originally loaded, its overall length (3.15 inches) exceeds that of the 7×57. In fact, it falls just 0.1 inch shy of the finished length of the 7mm Remington Magnum! In my view, the 6.5×55 merits at least a mid-length action, such as on Melvin Forbes’s New Ultra Light rifles. Shorter (typical .308-length) actions require deep bullet seating that throttles performance.
You’ll look hard to find a better deer cartridge than the 6.5×55. Francis Sell, woodsman and rifle enthusiast whose book on blacktail deer hunting has no peer, favored the 6.5×55. Hunters coming of age in a magnum culture might question the round’s bona fides on animals as stout as elk and moose. But at modest ranges, with bullets like Norma’s factory-loaded 156-grain Oryx, it’s a sure killer. Modest recoil makes rifles pleasant to fire (read: accurate in hand!) and fast on follow-ups. In Africa the 6.5×55 – and similar 6.5×54 Mannlicher-Schoenauer – felled much bigger game than moose long before anyone necked down the .375 H&H! While its compact case won’t let the Swede match the likes of the .270 ballistically, it is a fine all-around choice for big game in the Lower 48.
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For many Americans, real incomes have stayed flat in recent years, while the true cost of living has risen significantly. Accordingly, it’s important to save money whenever possible. Prices are going up, but wages aren’t following (for most of us). Here are seven ways shooters can save money on gear purchases and other shooting-related expenses.
1. Watch for Our Deals of the Week. Every Monday, in our Daily Bulletin, AccurateShooter.com offers some of the best deals to be found. We search the web to find great deals on ammo, reloading components, optics, tools, firearms, gun safes, electronics and more. It’s not unusual to find savings of 20-35% through our Deals of the Week. And many of our vendors are now offering special deals just for AccurateShooter.com readers.
2. Check Out the Forum Classifieds. There are great deals to be found every day in the AccurateShooter Shooters’ Forum. The latest deals are displayed in the right column of every Forum page. To see all the listings, browse through the Forum MarketPlace section which has four main categories:
Guns, Actions, Stocks, & Barrels
Tools, Dies, Rests, Reloading Components & Misc
Scopes, Optics, Sights, Rings, Bases Etc.
Commercial Sales by Paid Sponsors
3. Use Discount Codes to Save. It’s always smart to check for discount codes before you buy. In the Daily Bulletin, we feature “Deals of the Week” every Monday morning, and we provide discount Coupon Codes when available. These can reduce the price substantially or lower shipping costs. Search codes for Brownells, Sinclair Int’l, Cabela’s, and Amazon.com. Check your email also — some discount codes are only announced in email newsletters. If you can’t find a Coupon Code for your preferred vendor, visit RetailMeNot.com and/or SlickGuns.com. Both those sites list current coupon codes, and RetailMeNot.com covers thousands of vendors.
4. Shop for “Demo” Optics. Modern high-quality optics can easily cost $1500.00 or more, often exceeding the value of the rifle on which they are mounted. However, you can often save 20-30% by purchasing demo optics. These are normally display units used at trade shows. They may have slight ringmarks, but otherwise they are “as new”, having never been carried in the field or used on a rifle that has fired live ammo. When purchasing demo scopes, you should always ask about the warranty before consummating the sale. However, most demo scopes from name-brand manufacturers come with full factory warranties. EuroOptic.com and SWFA.com are two respected vendors that offer a good selection of demo optics.
5. Train with Rimfire Rifles. The true cost of shooting a match-grade centerfire rifle, when you consider barrel wear, approaches $1.00 per round. READ Shooting Cost Article. By contrast, decent .22LR target ammo sells for under $0.19 per round (though it is, admittedly, hard to find right now). Good rimfire barrels last a long, long time, so you don’t have to be concerned about wearing out your barrel quickly. A quality rimfire barrel can retain its accuracy for 7,000 rounds or more. If you run the ballistics, a .22LR round at 100 yards can emulate the wind drift experienced by a centerfire cartridge at long range. This allows for effective cross-training with much less expensive ammo.
6. Take Advantage of Factory Rebates. There are some attractive rebates available right now from quality manufacturers such as Bushnell, Leupold, RCBS, and Zeiss. You have to be a bit wary because rebates are typically used to move less-popular merchandise. But some rebates, such as the RCBS ‘Buy Green, Get Green’ Promo, apply to very wide range of merchandise, so it’s hard to go wrong. Just make sure that, when you buy a product, you retain the sales slip and the original packaging (it’s also wise to print out online orders). To qualify for the rebate, you may need to mail in a product identification code found on the box, along with your original sales receipt.
7. Share a Ride to Matches. Gas prices have fallen dramatically in the past year, but fuel remains a significant part of a shooter’s hobby budget, particularly if you drive long distances to compete at major matches. We’d say 90% of shooters drive solo to matches, often in large, gas-guzzling trucks. If you drive 200 miles round-trip to attend a match in a 20-mpg vehicle, you’ll burn nearly $25.00 worth of gasoline on your trip. That adds up. By simply sharing the ride with one fellow shooter you can cut your fuel expenditures in half. And, if you alternate vehicles from one match to the next, you also save on wear and tear on your own vehicle. At $0.50/mile consider the savings.
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With the price of premium brass topping $1.00 per case for popular match cartridges, it makes sense to consider annealing your brass to extend its useful life. You don’t want to chuck out brass that costs a buck a case (or more)! Forum member Darrell Jones offers a full range of brass prep, brass forming, and brass restoration (annealing, ultra-sonic cleaning) at very affordable prices. Starting at just $20 per 100 cases ($25/100 for magnum cases), Darrell’s company, DJ’s Brass, will anneal your used brass using state-of-the-art Bench-Source annealing machines. Annealing plus ultrasonic cleaning starts at $35 per 100 cases ($45 for magnum cases). For a bit more money Darrell can also uniform the primer pockets and chamfer the case necks.
Custom Neck-Turning Services
Another great service DJ’s Brass provides is precision neck-turning. Darrell can neck-turn any size case to your specified neck-wall thickness. The price starts at $60.00 per hundred for standard cases or $75.00/100 for magnum size with a $25.00 minimum order. And if you’ve got a bucket of brass to neck-turn, that’s fine with Darrell — he recently neck-turned 1500 pieces of brass for one customer!
DJ’s Brass can process everything from .17 Fireball all the way up to the big magnum cases. And the job gets done quickly. Darrell normally offers a 10-day turn-around. For most jobs, Darrell tells us, he gets the processed brass to the Post Office within three business days. For more info, visit DJsBrass.com or call Darrell Jones at 205-461-4680. IMPORTANT: Contact Darrell for shipping instructions BEFORE sending any brass for processing. ALL BRASS MUST BE DE-PRIMED before you send it.
• Anneal Case Necks Only ($20.00/100 normal or $25.00/100 magnum)
• Ultrasonic Cleaning, Check Necks, and Annealing ($35.00/100 normal or $45.00/100 magnum)
• Full Service: Uniform primer pockets, Chamfer case mouths, Ultrasonic cleaning and Polishing, Anneal case necks (Starting at $50.00/100 call for quote)
• Neck Turning or trim-to-length Custom Order Service (Starting at $60.00/100 for standard cases and $75.00/100 for magnums)
• Hydro-Form Specialty cases (such as Dasher) $0.60 (sixty cents) each minimum of 100 pieces plus actual return shipping cost
• Expand Case Necks and Anneal brass (Call for Price)
• Create False Shoulder for Fire-Forming (Call for Price)
• Ultrasonic Cleaning of Muzzle Brake, $5.00 plus actual shipping
Hydro-Forming Cartridge Brass
Hydro-forming by Darrell costs $0.60 per case with a minimum order of 100 pieces. After hydro-forming, Darrell can also neck-turn the case for an additional charge (call for combined quote). In addition to the 6mmBR-based cases shown below, Darrell can now hydro-form 6PPC cases from .220 Russian brass.
With Darrell’s hydro-forming service you don’t have to buy any special dies or other equipment. Darrell says: “Simply send me the brass you need or have it dropped-shipped to me along with a fired case that has not been sized. If you need formed brass for a new build (gun not yet fired), let me know and I will size the brass to fit within .001″ of a PT&G GO gauge.”
DJ’s Brass Offers Specialized Custom Services
Darrell tells us: “At DJ’s Brass, we can handle all your brass refurbishing needs. From ultrasonic cleaning to custom annealing for specific wildcat cartridges. We can expand your necks from .22 caliber to .30 caliber and anneal shoulders for consistent bump-back. We can turn your case-necks and trim the brass to your specs. For some cartridge types, I can pre-form cases to assist in fire-forming a wildcat cartridge. We also remove the carbon build-up in muzzle brakes. Don’t lose your accuracy by having carbon build up and close off the clearance required for the most accurate bullet release through a muzzle brake.” Note: Extra charges apply for neck-turning and neck expansion operations, or specialized cartridge-forming operations. Please call Darrell at 205-461-4680 for special services pricing.
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Tumblers and walnut/corncob media are old school. These days many shooters prefer processing brass rapidly with an ultrasonic cleaning machine. When used with the proper solution, a good ultrasonic cleaning machine can quickly remove remove dust, carbon, oil, and powder residue from your cartridge brass. The ultrasonic process will clean the inside of the cases, and even the primer pockets. Tumbling works well too, but for really dirty brass, ultrasonic cleaning may be a wise choice.
Our friend Gavin Gear recently put an RCBS Ultrasonic cleaning machine through its paces using RCBS Ultrasonic Case Cleaning Solution (RCBS #87058). To provide a real challenge, Gavin used some very dull and greasy milsurp brass: “I bought a huge lot of military once-fired 7.52x51mm brass (fired in a machine gun) that I’ve been slowly prepping for my DPMS LR-308B AR-10 style rifle. Some of this brass was fully prepped (sized/de-primed, trimmed, case mouths chamfered, primer pockets reamed) but it was gunked up with lube and looking dingy.”
UltimateReloader.com Case Cleaning Video (7.5 minutes):
Gavin describes the cleaning exercise step-by-step on UltimateReloader.com. Read Gavin’s Cartridge Cleaning Article to learn how he mixed the solution, activated the heater, and cycled the machine for 30 minutes. As you can see in the video above, the results were impressive. If you have never cleaned brass with ultrasound before, you should definitely watch Gavin’s 7.5-minute video — it provides many useful tips and shows the cleaning operation in progress from start to finish.
The RCBS ultrasonic cleaning machine features a large 3-liter capacity, 60 watt transducer, and 100 watt ceramic heater. The RCBS ultrasonic machine can be found under $140.00, and this unit qualifies for RCBS Rebates ($10 off $50 purchase or $75 off combined $300.00 purchase). RCBS also sells 32 oz. bottles of cleaning concentrate that will make up to 10 gallons of Ultrasonic Solution.
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by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Paul Box
This cartridge was introduced by Winchester in 1935 in their model 54 rifle. A year later, it was added as a standard cartridge in the model 70. What might not be common knowledge to some reloaders is that the prototype for the Swift was developed in 1934-35 by Grosvenor Wotkyns by necking down the 250 Savage case, but in the end, Winchester chose the 6mm Lee Navy case for the foundation for this cartridge.
This cartridge was far ahead of its time and for that reason it received a lot of bad press. We’ve all read the horror stories through the years. Many of those stories were just simply repeated from previous articles even the wording was just slightly different. So how bad was the Swift? Let’s take a deeper look.
Some of the early Swifts had soft barrel steel and some of the rare ones even had barrels that were .223 in bore size. This stemmed from the fact that the .22 Hornets prior to the end of World War II were .223 in bore size and some of these barrels were chambered in the Swift. It was rumored that the Swift peaked in pressure far too quick. I’ll bet they did with a turkey extra full choke barrel.
Burn rates of powders were limited at that time as well, so the Swift was limited in its true ability due to that. It was almost like building a funny car for drag racing when only kerosene was available.
One of the longest lasting black eyes was that it shot barrels out so fast. If you get the barrel branding iron hot and fail to clean it often this can happen. Common sense will go a long ways here. Keep the barrel as cool as you can and properly clean it every fifteen rounds or less will go a long way to improving accuracy life of a Swift.
So what is the real truth about this cartridge? I’m glad you ask. I’ve been shooting the .220 Swift for over 43 years now. It is one of the best varmint cartridges I’ve ever owned. It is not hard to load for, it doesn’t suddenly peak in pressure and it isn’t the barrel burner that you’ve heard. Hodgdon powders once reported a Remington 40-X with over 3,000 rounds of full power loads averaged .344” for five, 5-shot groups. My findings have been the same. It isn’t as hard on barrels as it has been made out to be.
I’ve also read that down loading it slightly will help in barrel life. This is true, but if you buy a thoroughbred you want him to run. Barrels are threaded on the end for a reason. If you have enough fun to shoot out a Swift barrel, just rebarrel it.
The bottom line is enjoy the .220 Swift for what it was meant to be. The popularity of the Swift has slipped in the last twenty years and few factory rifles are now available in this caliber. There is no reason for this and I know the Swift will always have a strong and loyal following.
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Now there is a new type of “lead-free” rimfire ammo that can be used in areas where lead is prohibited. CCI’s new .22 LR Copper-22 ammunition features hollow-point bullets made from a compressed copper + polymer matrix. This is a speedy round — Muzzle Velocity (MV) is a blistering 1850 FPS, very fast for a .22 LR round. CCI claims accuracy is excellent. We look forward to testing this new Copper-22 rimfire ammo to confirm CCI’s speed and accuracy claims. Running at 1850 FPS, this looks like it could be a very effective varmint round.
Copper-22 Ammo Features & Benefits:
Non-lead bullet suited for plinking, target-shooting and small game hunting.
21-grain hollow-point bullet, with compressed copper-polymer construction.
Legal to use in California and other zones where lead is prohibited.
1,850 FPS muzzle velocity with excellent accuracy.
The Copper-22 projectile is constructed from a unique mix of copper particles and polymer compressed into a potent, 21-grain bullet. This non-lead bullet is suited for plinking, target-shooting and small game hunting. Shipments of this Copper-22 ammo (CCI part No. 925CC) are now being delivered to dealers. For more info, visit www.cci-ammunition.com.
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Do you shoot a .45 ACP? We love this short, fat cartridge because it is inherently accurate, it makes big, easy-to-see holes in paper, and because it it works so well in the classic 1911 series of pistols. It is hard to beat a good, tuned model 1911 when it comes to trigger pull/reset and natural pointing ability.
Once you get the hang of it, 1911-type pistols are also easy to field strip for cleaning. Here is a video showing how to disassemble and reassemble your model 1911:
Model 1911 Field Stripping and Reassembly
.45 ACP Ammunition Loading Guide
If you “roll your own” .45 ACP cartridges, there are many good powder choices. Our favorites are Vihtavuori N320, AA No. 5, and Hodgdon TiteGroup, but there are many other good choices. You’ll find these three recommended powders (plus seven others) in this .45 ACP Reloading Guide from Nosler:
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If you’re looking for loaded ammunition at affordable prices, WikiArms.com can help you find a good deal. WikiArms constantly searches the listings of ammo vendors across the web. Then WikiArms ranks the offerings by cost per round, low to high. This way you can instantly compare prices from multiple vendors including Ammoland, Brownells, Cabelas, Lucky Gunner, MidwayUSA, Natchez, Sinclair Int’l, Slickguns, Sportsmans Guide, and Wideners. Search bots refresh pricing constantly so listed prices are normally current within five minutes. WikiArms even displays the amount of product currently in stock for each vendor.
Using WikiArms is easy. Just click your choice of caliber (such as .22 LR, 9mm, or .308 Win) on the navigation bar, or hit the Good Deals link to see a variety of cartridge types all at one time. WikiArms is fast, and it is FREE to use. Check it out.
WikiArms also tracks prices on reloading components — bullets, brass, primers, and powders. From the WikiArms Home page, look at the left column under the “Reloading” header. From there you can select the type of components you want.
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With the increased interest in the 6.5 Grendel cartridge and Grendel-based wildcats (such as the 6mmAR and 30 Major), today we’ve re-released a review by Robert Whitley.
Robert Whitley of AR-X Enterprises, LLC builds match-grade uppers for AR-platform rifles. Many of Robert’s favorite chamberings are based on the 6.5 Grendel case necked-down to 6mm. Until 2011, Lapua was the only source for 6.5 Grendel brass. As you’d expect, Lapua’s Grendel brass is truly excellent, but it is also pricey, and sometimes hard to find. Now Hornady is producing USA-made 6.5 Grendel brass. Robert Whitley has worked with the Hornady 6.5 Grendel brass for over a year now and he is able to assess its performance compared to the original Lapua version. Writing in our Shooters’ Forum, Robert reveals: “It’s decent brass but hot loads will loosen the primer pockets fast. With moderate loads you will get good case life and service from the brass and it can deliver excellent accuracy as well. Not Lapua but not bad either.”
Robert reports: “I was able to get my hands on some of Hornady’s 6.5 Grendel brass. My big question was how it would measure up, particularly the loaded necks, and whether it would be compatible with our existing 6mmAR and Turbo 40 die sets. As it turns out, this brass looks like a perfect fit for our existing die sets (and obviously 6.5 Grendel die sets too). Accordingly, folks with existing die sets will be able to use the Hornady brass without any issues.” However, as the loaded neck on the Hornady brass is .001″ (one-thousandth) slimmer than Lapua brass, you may want to try a smaller bushing when sizing Hornady Grendel brass.
The Hornady 6.5 Grendel brass has a LARGE Flash Hole, about .078″ versus .0591″ for Lapua brass. Dimensionally, the biggest difference is the shoulder diameter, with the Hornady brass measuring 0.428″ vs. 0.424″ for the Lapua brass. The Hornady is actually a better fit for 6mmAR chambers which are about 0.432″ at the shoulder. Interestingly, case H20 capacity is virtually identical. Water capacity of new, unfired Hornady 6.5 Grendel brass is 35.1 grains, while new, unfired Lapua Grendel brass holds 35.0 grains of H20. Both brands of Grendel brass increase to about 36.0 grains H20 capacity after firing and full-length sizing.
Here are some of the particulars of the Hornady cases:
Hornady 6.5 Grendel Brass
Lapua 6.5 Grendel Brass
Flash hole diameter: ~ .078″
OAL of brass: Average 1.515″
Weight of cases: 111.7 to 113.0 grains
Web diameter, unfired: 0.4375″
Shoulder diameter, unfired: 0.428″
Loaded neck diameter: 0.2895″
6mmAR loaded neck: 0.270″
Flash hole diameter: 1.5mm (0.0591″)
OAL of brass: Average 1.515″
Weight of cases: 111.0 to 112.5 grains
Web diameter, unfired: 0.4385″
Shoulder diameter, unfired: 0.424″
Loaded neck diameter: 0.290″
6mmAR loaded neck: 0.271″
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“22 Plinkster” is an avid shooter who has produced a number of entertaining videos for his YouTube Channel. In the video below, he tackles the question “Why Do Misfires Occur in .22 LR Rimfire Ammunition?” This is the most common question posed to 22 Plinkster by his many viewers. He identifies four main issues that can cause .22 LR misfires or faulty ignition:
1. Damaged Firing Pin — The dry firing process can actually blunt or shorten the firing pin, particularly with older rimfire firearms. Use of snap caps is recommended.
2. Poor Ammunition — Some cheap brands have poor quality control. 22 Plinkster recommends using ammo from a manufacturer with high quality control standards, such as CCI and Federal.
3. Age of Ammunition — Rimfire ammo can function well for a decade or more. However the “shelf life” of rimfire ammunition is not infinite. You ammo’s “lifespan” will be shortened by heat, moisture, and humidity. You should store your rimfire ammo in a cool, dry place.
4. Mishandling of Ammunition — Tossing around ammunition can cause problems. Rough handling can cause the priming compound to be dislodged from the rim. This causes misfires.
Many Forum members have been looking for a good substitute for Hodgdon H4350 powder, which remains hard-to-find in many parts of the country. One of the best alternatives is IMR 4451, part of IMR’s new Enduron line of powders. Last year, top F-Class shooter Rick Jensen did a comparison between H4350 and IMR 4451, shooting the two powder in a wide range of temperatures. His data suggests that both powders show good temp stability.
Powder Comparison Test: H4350 vs. IMR 4451
Rick Jensen, Captain of the U.S. F-Open Rifle Team, has tested some of the new IMR 4451 powder. Rick and other team members were looking for a good powder that could replace Hodgdon 4350 which is difficult to obtain currently. The makers of IMR 4451 claim that it is not sensitive to temperature and that it delivers competitive accuracy. So far, Rick’s tests, done with a .284 Winchester and 180gr Berger Hybrids, appear to confirm those claims. Rick posts:
“I did a little informal powder comparison of H4350 versus the new IMR 4451. Rifle used was a Kelbly Panda with a 30″, 1:8.75″ twist 5R Bartlein barrel [chambered in .284 Win]. All charge weights were 50.0 grains using CCI BR2 primers. I was very impressed with this new powder and I believe it to be equal to H4350 as far as temperature sensitivity.
I did not test for accuracy but I will tell you my groups were pretty much equal between the two and all were in the .2-.3 MOA range. I will defiantly be shooting more of this powder in the weeks to come, assuming the supply chain will allow. It looks very encouraging to finally have a alternative to H4350 that we might actually be able to buy.”
Chronograph Results with Temps from 23° F to 101°
Here are chronograph results of a comparison test between IMR 4451 and H4350. Rick’s rifle was cleaned and allowed to cool between each test. Five fouling shots were fired before each test. Important: Note that for both Test #1 and Test #2, the powder order is reversed in the mid-temp fields (IMR 4451 first, then H4350). For the low and high temp entries, H4350 is listed first.
Here are the IMR 4451 fired cases, displayed Left to right, coldest to the hottest (in terms of case temp when fired). All charge weights were the same: 50.0 grains.
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Are we seeing an end to the “desperate days” for .22 LR rimfire ammo? Are supplies finally starting to catch up to demand? At least one industry analyst thinks so. Gun journalist Dean Weingarten has been watching trends. Makers of .22 LR ammo have increased production by 20%. That’s a good thing. We are starting to see the effects, Dean observes, with increased supplies and falling prices for rimfire ammo. Here is Dean’s report from Arizona.
I chanced to be at the local WalMart in Yuma, Arizona today (July 8, 2016). This is the store on the frontage road off of old Highway 8, East of town. Until Friday, June 24, 2016, I had not seen any .22 Long Rifle in the store for three years.
On that date, there were 2,300 rounds of CCI Mini-Mags and 1,000 rounds of CCI Standard Velocity. The Mini-Mags were in plastic 100-round boxes at $7.47 a box. The Standard Velocity were in paper, 50-round boxes at $3.47 a box.
Just 10 days later, on the 3rd of July, I was in the same store, and there were 1900 rounds of CCI Stinger, in 50-round boxes. It is premium .22 Long Rifle ammunition, and has always been pricey. The price was $6.47 for a box of 50, or a little under 13 cents a round. They also had CCI .22 Maxi-Mag, .22 magnum rimfire cartridges, for $13.47 a box of 50, or nearly 27 cents a cartridge. It has been scarce, but not as bad as the .22 Long Rifle.
Two sightings in 10 days after three years was remarkable.
.22 LR Ammo for 5.36 Cents Per Round
Today, the 8th of July, there were two cases of bulk pack Federal .22 Auto Match. That is 6,500 .22 Long Rifle cartridges.This is only five days after the previous sighting. The boxes contained 325 cartridges. [The clerk] was just opening the cases to stock the shelves when I showed up. She said there had been a couple of bricks of .22, but they had been purchased immediately.
At $17.42 for 325 rounds of Auto Match .22, that is 5.36 cents per round. A little over two years ago, I wrote that the .22 ammunition bubble would be over when you saw .22 LR ammunition on sale below 4 cents a round:
“You will know that the bubble is close to the bottom when you see .22 LR on sale for below 4 cents per round. At the lowest, we might see .22 LR cartridges below $10 for 500.”Read Article from 6/7/2014.
Many dismissed my prediction. They said that we would never see .22 cartridges below 4 cents a round again. People said that I was crazy when gasoline was at $4 a gallon, and I wrote that we would see it below $2 in the future. It went below $2 a few months ago.
The .22 ammunition bubble is hanging on. The push for more Second Amendment infringements by the Obama administration keeps it inflated. But with only six months to go to the end of that administration, the bubble has become fragile. The .22 ammunition manufacturers have increased production by 20%. That puts a lot of strain on the bubble.
There are hundreds of cartridge types capable of winning in F-Open. For F-TR you can shoot either the .223 Rem or .308 Win, but you have many load options. This article will focus on proven choices, currently used by the top F-Class shooters in the world. Our discussion will analyze cartridge selection based on the four different F-Class sub-disciplines: Open Mid-Range, Open Long-Range, F-TR Mid-Range, and F-TR Long Range.
Click image to view full-screen photo.
Mid-Range F-Open Cartridges
For starters, a .300 WSM is certainly capable of winning mid-range matches but it is not ideal. So what is ideal, and why? F-Class Mid-Range matches usually are usually shot at 300, 500, or 600 yards — or all three. At those distances the 6mm and 6.5mm cartridges rule. In moderate conditions, the 6mm Dasher is unbeatable. Its low recoil along with its super grouping ability and good ballistics make it my number one choice for Mid-Range.
Best bullets for the 6mm Dasher are: Vapor Trail 103gr, Berger 105 Hybrid, 108 BT, and 105 VLD (hunting). Best powders are: Varget, H4895, and Reloder 15.
Choices for Mid-Range in Tougher Conditions:
We all know that conditions are not always “moderate” that’s why something a little bit bigger will save you a “Nine” or two. The 6.5X47 Lapua was designed for 300-meter competition, but as soon as it was released, it was adopted by F-Class, benchrest, and tactical shooters. It offers great ballistics with very low recoil and big “accuracy window”. Lapua makes great brass for it (no surprise there) and Berger makes great bullets: 130gr VLD, 140gr VLD, 140gr Hybrids. Best powders in most barrels are Varget and H4350, I don’t use double-based powders such as Reloder 17 and the Vihtavuori N500 series because of their unpredictable performance day to day (greater temp sensitivity).
The 6.5X47 Lapua necked down to 6mm is also a great option for mid range matches. I was able to easily get 3200 fps with 105 hybrids and H4350.
Choice for Long-Range F-Open Competition
In Long-Range F-Open Class (out to 1000 yards), the big, high-BC bullets rule. If I had to pick one cartridge for F-Class (both mid- and long-range) I would pick the .284 Winchester or one of its variants. The .284 Win is currently dominating in F-Open competition. It offers great barrel life, it is super-easy to tune and its recoil is very manageable. The best bullets for it by far (in my opinion), are the Berger 180 Hybrids. But Sierra’s new 183gr MK bullet (with factory-uniformed meplats) seems to perform very well as does the Berger 180 VLD. Best powders for the .284 Win are H4350 and H4831SC.
Long-Range Only F-Open Cartridge
As much as I like the .284 Win, for long-range competitions I like the .300 WSM even more. If you look at a .300 WSM and a 6mm Dasher side by side, they appear almost identical in geometry — the .300 WSM looks like an “super-sized” Dasher. Both cartridges are currently the “darlings” of long-range benchrest due to their extraordinary grouping ability and huge “node’’ windows. Big accuracy windows allow loads to perform well in different conditions and geographical locations. That’s obviously very important if you travel to compete. The .300 WSM loaded with Berger 215gr or 230gr Hybrids is very tough to beat at long range, and it is currently my number one choice.
The 7mm RSAUM is another outstanding long-range round. It resembles a 6BR on steroids and it is almost as easy to tune. Best bullets for it are Berger 180gr Hybrids, 195gr EOLs, and Sierra’s 183gr MatchKing. Best powders for the 7mm RSAUM are: H4350, H4831SC, and VV N160.
Top Caliber/Bullet Combos for F-TR
In F-TR competition, the choice is clear — a .308 Win throated for Berger 185gr BTLRs and 200gr Hybrids will win in mid-range AND long-range comps. Many championships have been won, and many records set with those two bullets in the .308 Win. To quote Danny Biggs (a two times FTR National Champion) “The 185 BTLR is the best bullet for .308 Win ever made”.
The Berger 215gr Hybrids have been used to win many competitions including recently the 2015 F-Class Nationals. Bryan Litz won both the Mid-Range and Long-Range 2015 Championships using 215s. Bryan’s rifle is shown below:
I recommend chambers throated for the 185/200 grain projectiles over the 215/230 grain bullets. The reason is that if you have your barrel throated out for the 215s or the 230s, you could have a “slow” barrel and max out on pressure before the desired velocity is reached. Optimum freebore for the 230s is too long for the 185/200s, so you would be limited to using only 215/230gr bullets in that barrel.Furthermore, the recoil increase with heavier bullets is substantial, causing the rifle to be more difficult to shoot.
.223 Rem — Not A Competitive Option
I would stay away from the .223 Remington. On paper the 90gr VLD will shoot inside most .308 Win loads even at a 1000 yards. But in reality, on average, the .223 Rem, regardless of what powder/bullet combo is used, cannot compete with the .308 Win. [Editor: The equipment lists at major F-TR matches will confirm Kovan’s conclusion here.]
Conclusion (and Other Options)
This article covers only the (currently) most popular cartridge/bullet combos for F-Class (F-Open and F-TR). As I said in the beginning, many cartridge types are capable of winning but are not listed due to their low popularity, case design, or lack of quality components. All of the above information is based on my personal experience and it is meant to help new shooters choose the right cartridges for F-Class matches. Thanks for reading and good luck — Emil Kovan
Emil Kovan Competition History:
– 2014 F-Class Open National Champion
– 2015 F-Class Open National Championship, Silver Medal
– F-Class Open National Championship Teams, 2015, 2014, 2013, Shooting Team Member
– Over 15 wins in Regional and State Championships in Palma, F-TR, F-Open
– 2013 U.S. National Team Member
– 2017 U.S. National Development Team Member
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California Governor Jerry Brown just departed for a luxurious European vacation. But before he left the state, he savaged the Second Amendment rights of millions of California gun owners. Less than 24 hours after they arrived on his desk, Brown signed six anti-gun bills railroaded through the Democratic-controlled California Legislature. Among the bills signed by Brown was SB 1446 which will require Californians to forfeit, destroy, or ship out of the state ALL firearms magazines that can hold more than ten rounds. Owners of legally-obtained magazines, previously “grandfathered”, will receive no compensation though they must give up their property. Those who fail to comply will be fined and charged with an infraction, a low-level crime. This magazine restriction goes into effect July 1, 2017.
Gov. Brown also signed SB 1235 which will require background checks for the purchase of any and all ammunition. Ammo buyers’ names and personal information will be logged and tracked in a database.
Notice from NSSF RE California Legislation
The NSSF issued this statement: “The National Shooting Sports Foundation is extremely disappointed that Gov. Brown today chose to sign into law these highly restrictive and unneeded gun control measures, all of which will affect law-abiding Californians while doing nothing to stop the criminal misuse of firearms. By acting within 24 hours after being sent these bills, and not allowing the public to voice their opinions in order to depart for his European vacation, the governor compounded the miscarriage of legislative process and procedure while demonstrating disdain for Californians who now face laws that clearly infringe on their Constitutional rights.”
Gov. Brown SIGNED the following bills into law:
AB 1135 (Levine) and SB 880 (Hall) Firearms: Assault Weapons – Expands the definition of assault weapons based on whether a semiautomatic firearm has a detachable magazine, banning thousands of popular firearms.
SB 1235 (de Leon) Ammunition – Requires authorization to purchase ammunition and track what and how much ammunition each person buys, creating a database of ammunition purchasers.
SB 1446 (Hancock) Firearms: Magazine Capacity – Makes it illegal to possess magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds no matter how long a person has owned them.
AB 1511 (Santiago) Firearms: Lending – Makes it illegal to loan a firearm to a person who is personally known to you (except for family members with restrictions).
AB 1695 (Bonta) Firearms: False Reports – Creates a 10-year prohibition on owning firearms for someone convicted of falsely reporting a lost or stolen firearm.
Gov. Brown VETOED the following bills:
SB 894 (Jackson) Firearms: Lost or Stolen: reports – Would have made it a crime not to report lost and stolen firearms to law enforcement within the arbitrary time limit.
AB 1673 (Gipson) Firearms: Unfinished frame or receiver – Would have expanded the definition of a firearm to include partially finished frames and receivers (no definition of what this means) and require their registration.
AB 1674 (Santiago) Firearms: Transfers – Would have made it illegal to buy or receive more than one firearm in any 30-day period.
If you wish to Contact Gov. Brown’s office to voice your concern about his signing of six anti-gun measures, here is the contact information:
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Here’s a good deal — Creedmoor Sports is offering free ground shipping this weekend to celebrate Independence Day. Buy all you want from the Creedmoor Sports website, and ground shipping is FREE, from Friday, July 1 through Monday, July 4th, ending at midnight Pacific Daylight Time.
AUTOMATIC DISCOUNT: Creedmoor’s free shipping discount is automatic. You don’t need to enter a coupon or promo code during online checkout. Just make your purchases and the shipping will automatically be free. For more info, or to place an order, visit www.CreedmoorSports.com or www.CreedmoorAmmo.com.
This 4th of July weekend special applies to Creedmoor’s full line of shooting accessories — everything from range supplies and reloading components, to gloves, slings, gun cases and targets, and much more. Along with FREE Shipping (contiguous USA only) Creedmoor is offering 10% off shirts, 10% off Anschutz shooting coats, and 15% off books.
The Free Shipping offer also covers Creedmoor-brand ammo, which is very good stuff. Creedmoor rifle ammunition is offered in popular centerfire calibers from .223 Rem to .308 Win, with numerous load options. Creedmoor pistol ammunition is offered in .380 Auto through .45 ACP, with many bullet weight/type options.
Creedmoor Ammunition is made from all new, top-shelf components (no cheap or reclaimed components) and every round is hand-inspected. Creedmoor ammunition is loaded in state-of-the-art AmmoLoad machines that are typically run at half the recommended speed to produce a more uniform, consistent load.
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Reader Mike Etzel has come up with a simple, cost-effective way to apply moly or danzac coatings to your bullets. And you won’t need any expensive gear other than your regular vibratory tumbler and some small plastic containers.
Mike explains: “For a number of years I have been using a very convenient way of coating my projectiles with DANZAC in a tumbler. Instead of using a separate tumbler filled with DANZAC and stainless steel balls for coating applications, use small resealable plastic cake or pudding cups filled with stainless balls and DANZAC. Each cup will accommodate between 20 to 70 projectiles depending on caliber once the polishing balls and DANZAC are added. When I need to polish some cases, I insert the sealable plastic container(s) into the polishing material in the tumbler, add cases to the media, and in the process clean cases and coat the projectiles simultaneously in one tumbler. This does two operations in one session, saving on time and resources.”
While Mike uses DANZAC (Tungsten DiSulfide or WS2), you can use the same impact-tumbling-in-a-cup method to moly-coat your bullets, or to apply HBN (Hexagonal Boron Nitride).
TIPS for COATING your BULLETS, by “GS Arizona”
1. Start with Clean Bullets. This is simple enough, but some people overlook it and others overdo it. Get the bullets out of the box, wash them with warm water and dish soap and dry them. No need for harsh chemicals, after all, we’re only removing some surface dirt from shipping and maybe some left over lanolin from the forming process. Don’t handle them with bare hands once they’re clean, your skin oils will contaminate them.
2. Get Everything Hot — Real Hot. This is probably the single most important element in producing good-looking moly-coated bullets. I put the tumbler, the drum and the bullets out in the sun for at least 30 minutes before starting and then do all the tumbling in direct sunlight. On a summer day in Arizona, everything gets to the point that its uncomfortably hot to handle. If you are tumbling in the winter, you should heat the bullets in some form, a hair dryer can be useful, but they will cool off in the drum if you’re tumbling in cold temperatures. Your best bet is to plan ahead and do your coating in the summer. I coated about 3000 bullets in a couple of days recently to see me through our winter season (we’re a bit reversed from the rest of the country in terms of shooting season).
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Berger Ballistician Bryan Litz has been preparing for the King of Two Miles match next week. He’s been out testing a VERY high-BC bullet — Berger’s new prototype .375 caliber 400-grainer. In the photo above, you can see Applied Ballistics intern Mitch Fitzpatrick (flanked by twin LabRadar chronos) shooting at a target set at 2400 yards. Next week, at the King of Two Miles event, the challenge will be even greater — Bryan and his team will be shooting out to roughly 3600 yards.
Bryan reports: “We’ve been preparing for the King of Two Miles match next week. Last Friday we shot 2400 yards at Thunder Valley Precision in Ohio, measuring time of flight and refining the custom drag model for our bullet. We are logging flight times over three seconds and the bullet is still supersonic at 2400 yards! Tomorrow we’re shooting 1800 yards as a final verification before we load up and begin traveling out west.”
OPTICS for Extreme Long Range
Bryan is running Nightforce ATACR scopes on his .375 rifles. These ATACRs offer 120 MOA (or 35 Mils) of elevation. That’s impressive, but you still need more “up” for these extreme distances.
Bryan notes: “No scope has enough elevation to dial direct to two miles even with these large-caliber, high-performance rifles. You need some kind of external adjustment, or use a steep rail (e.g. +80 MOA). This works but can sacrifice your ability to zero under 1000 yards.”
This video shows a hit at 2400 yards with the .375-caliber bullet. The target is 8’x8′ square. The targets Bryan will shoot at next week’s King of Two Miles competition will be up to 1200 yards further than this. (Two miles is 3520 yards).
If you’re interested in this kind of Extreme Long Range shooting, consider attending the Applied Ballistics Seminar. The next seminar will be held July 18-19 in Michigan. Bryan says: “We’ll be sharing our experiences and lessons learned in the Two Mile shooting match among many other things we’re working on.” CLICK HERE for Seminar INFO and Registration.
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If you’re the kind of guy who likes to get his brass shiny inside and out, then wet-tumbling with stainless media gets the job done. For heavy-duty wet-tumbling jobs, it used to be that you had to buy a Thumler’s Tumbler and then figure out your own solution for media separation. Now there are other options on the market which may be more convenient for many users.
Lyman has just introduced its Cyclone Rotary Tumbler. For under $190.00 on Amazon.com, this ships as a complete system with everything you need — even the stainless media and media separators. The Tumbler unit itself holds up to 1000 pieces of .223 Rem brass and features a rubber lining to protect your cases and reduce noise during operation.
Conveniently, a built-in timer can be set from 0 to 3 hours, shutting off automatically. The drum features a large, screw-on end-cap to allow easy loading and unloading. In addition, the tumbler comes with two special sifter pans that make it easy to separate pins from brass. Simply empty the tumbler into the stacked pans. The first pan catches the brass, while the second, finer screen pan catches the pins. Very clever. The Cyclone Tumbler system ships with five pounds of stainless media pins and a sample packet of Brass Cleaning Solution.
Video shows Lyman Cyclone wet tumbling system in action:
TECH TIP: Wet-tumbling brass with stainless media really works. With enough “run-time” the process will definitely remove stubborn carbon on the inside of cases. However, some folks observe that case-mouths can occasionally get peened during the process. This is not a big deal but it is worth noting. In addition, with large flash-hole cases, it is possible (though rare) for a pin to stick in a flash hole. Therefore you should inspect every case before loading in a progressive press or bulk-priming cases with a bench tool.
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Any long range shooter knows that wind is our ultimate nemesis. The best ways of overcoming wind are to measure what we can and use computers to calculate deflection. The Applied Ballistics Kestrel is a great tool for this. As good as our tools may be, we don’t always have them at our fingertips, or they break, batteries go dead, and so on. In these cases, it’s nice to have a simple way of estimating wind based on known variables. There are numerous wind formulas of various complexity.
The Applied Ballistics (AB) Wind Hack is about the simplest way to get a rough wind solution. Here it is: You simply add 2 to the first digit of your G7 BC, and divide your drop by this number to get the 10 mph crosswind deflection. For example, suppose you’re shooting a .308 caliber 175-grain bullet with a G7 BC of 0.260 at 1000 yards, and your drop is 37 MOA. For a G7 BC of 0.260, your “wind number” is 2+2=4. So your 10 mph wind deflection is your drop (37 MOA) divided by your “wind number” (4) = 9.25 MOA. This is really close to the actual 9.37 MOA calculated by the ballistic software.
WIND HACK Formula
10 mph Cross Wind Deflection = Drop (in MOA) divided by (G7 BC 1st Digit + 2)
Give the AB wind hack a try to see how it works with your ballistics!
Some Caveats: Your drop number has to be from a 100-yard zero. This wind hack is most accurate for supersonic flight. Within supersonic range, accuracy is typically better than +/-6″. You can easily scale the 10 mph crosswind deflection by the actual wind speed. Wind direction has to be scaled by the cosine of the angle.
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Social Media fans take note — Lapua is now on Facebook. Lapua recently launched its official Facebook page focusing on Lapua sport shooting components and ammunition. The page will feature shooting news, match results, product info, shooter profiles, videos, tech tips, and other Lapua-related material. You can follow Lapua on Facebook by visiting www.facebook.com/LapuaAmmunition.
Lapua Products and Company History
Lapua (officially Nammo Lapua Oy), is part of the large Nordic Nammo Group. Lapua’s main products include premium cartridge brass, bullets, small caliber cartridges, rimfire cartridges, and reloading components for civilian and professional use. The Lapua cartridge factory was established in 1923. From a modest and practical beginning, Lapua has grown into one of the most respected brands in the industry. The best shooters in the world choose Lapua cartridges and components. In 2014, Nammo acquired the Vihtavuori smokeless powder factory.
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